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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough" - Mario Andretti


A review, on Amazon, of The Enjoyment of Music: An Introduction to Perceptive Listening/Shorter Version, a book by Joseph Machlis:

"Even classical music has gone politically correct!

I reviewed this book hoping to find a decent introductory overview of the history and basics of music. At the start, this text looked promising. It featured an accompanying interactive CD set with samples of the music overviewed in the text and appeared to cover a wide range of music.

What I found was thoroughly dissappointing - not necessarily the material itself, but the way the book was written. A reoccurring theme of political correctness made me want to gag at times, and at others it prompted only dissapointment at important parts of the history of music that were neglected in the place of politically correct anecdotes about multi-culturalism and entire chapters devoted to obscure composers who are included solely because they happened to be female.

The politically correct themes of this 500 page book ranged from the casual use of extreme PC terminology such as "Before the Common Era" (BCE) instead of the now politically incorrect "Before Christ" (BC) to more bizarre ventures into the realm of modern artistic "Electronic Music." At times the attention paid to modern eccentricism is an embarrassing reflection upon the author in my mind. He names and gives brief biographies of more obscure post modernists, figures in "electronic" music, and neo-romanticist composers than he does for the ENTIRE BAROQUE AND CLASSICAL PERIODS OF MUSIC COMBINED.

The detriment of doing this does not go unnoticed. The author completely neglected any mention whatsoever of the contributions of significant composers including Georg Philip Telemann, Dimitri Kabelevsky, Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan), William Byrd, and Gustav Holst. Similarly the contributions of Correlli, Johann Strauss, Elgar, Couperin, Gluck, CPE Bach, Orff, Borodin, and countless others recieve only brief mentions of a line or two.

Amazingly, after having left out so many significant composers, the author finds room to devote the better part of an entire chapter to the obscure Baroque era harpsichordist Elisabeth-Claude Jaquet De La Guerre and even features a composition of hers, even though she was known more as a musician than a composer and even though her musical contribution was far less than any of the above mentioned composers who were neglected by the author. Jaquet De La Guerre, at best, is an obscure footnote in the history of music, especially compared to giants like Johann Strauss (who was largely neglected) and composers of some of the most significant works of music in history, such as Holst (the Planets), Orff (Carmina Burana), and Corelli (father of the concerto grosso, an important musical form itself that was also discussed in only a sentence or two by the author).

Almost laughably, the author, in light of all his omissions, takes time out to mention modern "ska" music, Curt Cobain, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Ice Cube," Michael Jackson, and the Jefferson Airplane. At least the reader can rest assured that the Jefferson Airplane got paid more attention by the author than one of the most prolific composers in history (Telemann)!"
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